Organic in the Marketplace

At Onomea Tea Company we have a high regard for “organic” labeling and the certification process. I am wondering what “organic” means to you. When something is labeled organic does it add value? Are you more willing to buy an organic product if the USDA Organic label appears on it? 

I participate in a number of tea discussion groups and recently one of the participants asked whether the best quality teas carry the highest prices. This lead to a discussion about quality and what components can be used to establish quality in tea. Keeping in mind that when tea is processed it is not commonly washed. I was surprised that no one (prior to myself) suggested that organic growing methods contribute to quality in tea. Being a tea grower and processor, this is one of the first things I consider when looking for quality in a tea product. The taste and aromas are highly subjective criteria that can not solely establish the quality of a tea. So why wasn’t growing method a primary criteria in determining the quality of tea? Part of the reason may be that very large scale tea farms that have been growing tea for many, many years have established growing methods that rely heavily on chemical based farming practices. That kind of farm methodology can be extremely difficult to adapt to a more organic growing method. In order to become certified organic, a farm cannot have used a non-organic certified product on their crop for at least three years. If a farm starts not using pesticides in favor of trying to become more organic I expect the initial influx of pests will be great, which could dramatically affect yields. Things can be further complicated by suspending the use of commercial fertilizers. The question is, does it make a difference? For me it does. I’m concerned, not only with the quality of tea, but with the long term quality of the soil the tea grows in. I like the idea of mimicking nature as much as possible. Whenever I go into a well established forest I notice how earthy it smells. I notice the cycle of plant growth, organic material being shed from actively growing plants in the form of leaves or falling trees or other decaying plant nutrient. Its a self perpetuating environment, and that’s what I’d like to create in our tea field. An environment that is organically fed by plant based nutrients and possibly light inputs from fowl residues or other animal sources, like one might expect to see in a natural environment. I do understand this is very difficult on a large scale and I’m happily hoping that I won’t ever have to grow on such a large scale.

What do you think? 

Does the Organic Lable matter to you?

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2 Responses to “Organic in the Marketplace”

  1. Jennifer Joie Webster Says:

    ~it is important to note the average person knows little about growing these days. My father, Carroll M. Webster, was the head of the State Seed Lab in Kansas as I grew up in the 50′s. The way he approached/ viewed/ studied the land I watched and learned to admire. I was lucky to benefit from his simple everyday statements about how things grow, what was a weed or pest to farmers and why. Just everyday life to him and the farmers as they tried to get the best yeilds out of their land to gain a market value. This over time became the reason to use chemicals to boost output or survive a crop from pests. I learned as a child that the soil is the key that shapes the plants. How simple is that? But if we alter it no matter our good intentions we alter our product. Just as in vineyards, the soil produces a different grape flavor to the same grape planted anywhere. I am sure tea is the same. You can’t grow it just anywhere and choosing the perfect place is the key for any grower trying to be organic. And I know some teas that we are normalized into consuming are complete blends of many tea growers so the tea is imperfect to its self —I guess I mean to say it is not pure to one region or place or ground like your tea. It is a ‘blend’ of many farmers crops. And not what I want to consume if I can have a choice quality tea.
    To me organic means I am making a choice to select a style of product that was lost by farming for the masses in my generation. And how many people even know what real dirt looks like and what it’s properties allow it to grow just as it is?
    Thank you for growing healthy tea!

  2. admin Says:

    Thank you for your sincere and wise comments Jennifer. While we cannot grow grapes here, growing tea and growing grapes have lots of similarities. The soil and climate are vital contributors to the flavors that are produced in the final product. How the soil is treated is of vital importance. We are fortunate because the Terroir and Climate at this spot on Hawaii Island, is perfect. It feels very good to have a healthy relationship with the land…Mike Longo

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